Time and time again, I hear that one of our biggest needs as a community is a solution to alcohol and drug abuse. The number of cases directly related to substance abuse in Marathon County has increased at an alarming rate. Much of this increase involves extremely dangerous and addictive drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. In 2007, Marathon County filed 11 charges of methamphetamine possession. In 2016, less than 10 years later, that number increased to 217 charges.

Earlier this month, the state budget committee adopted an amendment I authored to the governor’s budget bill that increases funding for treatment alternatives and diversion programs. These programs, commonly referred to as TAD, lend support to counties that are seeking alternatives to prosecution and incarceration for offenders with a history of substance abuse. Counties can apply for these competitive grants through the Department of Justice. TAD programs are established using one of two models: pre-trial diversion or adult drug courts.

We need a drug court in Marathon County to serve not only as a long-term solution to jail overcrowding but also as a way to provide treatment and rehabilitation to the neediest in our society. By providing those struggling with addiction the tools they need to break the cycle, we are giving them a second chance to change the story of their lives for the better. The county has already devoted a significant amount of resources to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. They have battled with overcapacity levels in jail and a heavy child protective services caseload. A drug court would continue those efforts and put more people back on track to becoming active members of our society.

Substance abuse is a public health problem that impacts not only the individual but also many facets of society….